The Equifax Breach And You

We’ve had several clients ask about the Equifax data breach.  Whether or not the Equifax website says that you may have been affected, the whole incident is obviously a concern.  Below we’ve listed several things you can do, ranging from less severe to more.

First, you have the option of signing up for a free year of credit monitoring from Equifax, called TrustedID Premier.  There is no cost for this and you do not have to enter credit card information: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

Second, check your credit reports on https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.  You can choose to download reports from any of the three credit bureaus or get all three at once.  We suggest spacing out the reports throughout the year to keep a closer eye on any new accounts or inquiries that you don’t recognize.  We’ve heard that it’s difficult to obtain the Equifax report this way right now, so you may want to start with one of the other companies.

Third, consider adding a 90 day “fraud alert” to your credit report.  It’s free and you only need to contact one of the three companies and all three will be notified (we suggest Experian, which you can learn more about at https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/fraudalert).  That step makes it a little harder for someone to open an account in your name, as the company will have to contact you by phone to verify the new account.

Fourth, you can add a “security freeze” to your credit report, which locks your credit information and stops any new accounts or loans being added.  You’d need to do this at each company individually, and depending on your state this costs around $10 or less to add (and an additional $10 to remove).  Equifax has announced that they are waiving those fees for the next thirty days.  If you are applying for a loan or some other type of account or plan to do that soon, we would wait to add the freeze as it would cause a problem with that process.

Equifax – https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
Experian – https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/freeze
Transunion – https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp

Depending on your particular situation, you may want to go straight to freezing your credit reports.  While we are not specifically recommending that, we think it’s a good course of action if you don’t need to open any new accounts.

As it relates to your investment accounts, the brokerage companies that we use have security measures in place to make sure money cannot be sent to a third party (i.e., anyone that is not the account holder) without signed paperwork and verbal authorization.  If you have additional questions about this or the security of your accounts, please let us know.

Russell W. Hall, CFP®